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Wisconsin State Prison Sergeant Rats Out Prisoner Informants

by Ed Lyon 

It is unfortunate that one of the first things someone learns after being incarcerated is to never, ever trust anyone. Now-retired Wisconsin prison captain Jason Wilke is a poster-child for the never-trust-anyone creed, demonstrating that it also applies to prison staff not being able to trust their co-workers.

An experienced, highly motivated gang investigator within Wisconsin’s prison system, Wilke traveled cross-country to teach and train others on gang-intervention techniques and trends. 

It would be the misconduct of a sergeant at the medium-security Redgranite Correctional Institution (RCI) that would place several lives at risk, including Wilke’s, his family’s and that of at least five prisoners, while torpedoing two ongoing investigations – one of which involved an attempted murder-for-hire of a judge. 

Robert Wilcox was by all outward appearances a competent prison employee and upstanding member of the local community. He was a member of the Redgranite Village Governing Board and sat on the board’s fire and police committee. He was also a sergeant at RCI, where Wilke was coordinating several investigations.

As with investigations both in and outside of prisons, informants are often used to gather information and build cases. Five RCI prisoners were working on the murder-for-hire case for Wilke when, in January 2018, Sgt. Wilcox took a prisoner roster in H east wing and included a rat image next to each of the informants’ names. The roster was seen by other prisoners who, according to Wilke, tried to mail it out of the prison.

The prisoner-informants were transferred to other facilities for their protection. The cat was out of the bag, however, as word travels quickly along the prison grapevine.  Not only were the informants threatened, but another prisoner contacted the administration saying one of the informants was planning to have Wilke and his family harmed. It was only later that Wilke learned of the potential threat, and it was he who contacted law enforcement about the threats rather than prison staff, as is the normal practice. 

Fearing retaliation from prison officials for reporting the threats against him and his family to law enforcement, Wilke took early medical retirement in January 2019. He felt the threats were credible, as one of the investigations he was conducting involved a violent gang known for drive-by shootings. 

As for Sgt. Wilcox, he told investigators he “never took into account that the range board [roster] would end up in an inmate’s hands or that they would take it,” adding, “I am very sorry and ... sincerely apologize for my mistake.”

As a result of literally “ratting out” the prisoner-informants by putting rat icons next to their names, Wilcox received a one-day suspension. Wilke objected to this lenient sanction and said he was subjected to retaliation by prison officials as a result, contributing to his decision to retire.

“This entire story is mindboggling,” Wilke said once he went public. “I’m not doing this to embarrass the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. I am doing this to make the community aware of the misconduct taking place at [RCI]. I don’t want this to happen to another staff member.” 



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